Unibond League Challenge Cup Final Eastwood Town 3 Skelmersdale United 0
A STORMING first-half performance was the catalyst to Eastwood Town becoming UniBond League Cup winners at Curzon Ashton on Monday night.
Craig Swinscoe's double strike and another from Anthony Howell sealed the win, and gave The Badgers a massive boost ahead of their key league match at Leek on Saturday.
Suspension, illness and injury not withstanding, Paul Cox and John Ramshaw produced a formidable looking side and The Badgers gave a crowd, which looked much larger than the official count, an almost faultless display.
With just ten minutes gone, skipper Swinscoe headed Eastwood in front after Matt Rhead had knocked on a precisely driven free-kick from Chris Shaw.
In the 21st minute, Howell rose imperiously in a crowded Skelmersdale goalmouth to bullet home a header from another trademark Shaw delivery - this time a beautifully flighted corner from the right.
Between these scorers, Ian Deakin had twice moved smartly - once very bravely to deny the Liverpool team's powerful looking strikers, and around 25 minutes in, he surpassed these stops by going full-stretch to his right to deny Kyle Wilson just reward for a fine solo run.
In 39 minutes, the 'Old Firm' was as it again when Swinscoe neatly head-flicked Eastwood's third goal from - what else? - a nicely weighted Shaw free-kick.
Unfortunately that proved the end for 'Captain Courageous' who was helped off after what looked a serious knee injury.
Jay Smedley came off the bench just before the interval.
Was it imagination or did a breeze in Eastwood's first half favour turn into a gale propelling the 'scousers' forward in the second period?
Whatever, a defence superbly marshalled by Richard Cooper and flamboyantly represented by Deakin, whose handling and kicking were well-nigh perfect, coped unfussily and frustratingly for the large Liverpool element.
Midfield, often Eastwood's worrying area, worked like a charm with Deon Meikle and Paul Mitchell providing a secure platform allowing Ricky Hanson and Shaw to counter-attack speedily.
Lindon Meikle's speed and flair created chances and quite how the very impressive Rhead did not hit the net is still puzzling.
Marc Smith came on as a tactical replacement - a move which must have further depressed a leg-weary defence - and he too, at least twice, went near to adding to the 'Skelly' woe.
'Best Badger' in a virtually faultless team show is a hard pick, but Swinscoe surely earns the honour.
1 Ian Deakin
2 Ricky Hanson
3 Chris Shaw
4 Richard Cooper
5 Kris Mathews
6 Craig Swinscoe (Jay Smedley 42)
7 Deon Meikle
8 Paul Mitchell
9 Matt Rhead (Marc Smith 72)
10 Anthony Howell
11 Lindon Meikle
Sub not used: Rob Paling
Referee: T Hartington (Tyne & Wear)
Best Badger - Craig Swinscoe